LAWRENCE — Kristopher Oliveira has been selected to lead the Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity at the University of Kansas.
Oliveira (he/his) is an advanced doctoral student and instructor in the Department of Sociology at the University of South Florida. He’ll begin his work for KU on Aug. 10. The Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity, often called SGD, works to build an inclusive campus community by providing social justice-based education, resources, programming and support for students, staff and faculty across the spectrums of gender and sexuality, with an emphasis on intersectional experiences.
“I am looking forward to co-imagining the future of the SGD center alongside queer and trans students, faculty, staff and administrators on campus,” Oliveira said. “I am looking forward to developing a strong programming agenda and to establish traditions that celebrate the success of QTBIPOC Jayhawks. I anticipate incredible opportunities to establish ongoing relationships with campus and community partners who are invested in social justice work and to leverage those partnerships to inspire meaningful change.”
Oliveira noted that he believes KU offers a great place to live, work and grow as a queer and transgender resource professional because of its commitment to diversity and equity at the intersections of identity.
“During the interview process, I had the opportunity to engage in authentic dialogue with members of the campus community who talked about their goals of working towards inclusivity and social justice, and those goals included not only students, faculty, staff and administrators but also the broader Lawrence community. KU is the type of campus that is invested in holistic inclusion, so I knew that this was the place for me.”
Oliveira is currently working on his interdisciplinary dissertation project which is an institutional ethnography of queer and transgender work and life in higher education. His body of research focuses on the emancipatory potential of collegiate LGBTQIA+ resource centers and the experiences of Black and queer higher education professionals.
The COVID-19 pandemic creates some new twists for those leading campus-serving centers such as the SGD; however, Oliveira is confident his office will be able to rise to the occasion.
“Although COVID is a challenging time, I believe that student affairs professionals are developing new ways to support and engage students from a distance, and it is my hope that we can continue some of these initiatives even after the pandemic subsides,” he said. “Doing so means creating accessible outlets for students to engage in the Jayhawk community.”
One major task he plans to address in his first year is to build upon the success of the Safe Zone training program and begin to establish two new phases, and to diversify the audience so that the center can regularly offer trainings for student leaders.
“In my previous work as a queer and trans resource professional, I established the mantra ‘Queers with Degrees,’ which meant that despite adversity, we would work together to exact meaningful change through social justice, and we would simultaneously be successful in our pursuit of education.”
Before embarking on his doctoral studies, Oliveira served as an interim LGBTQIA+ resource center director at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota, where he delivered presentations on queer and transgender identity and helped shape campus policy and advocacy, developed events and programs, and advanced the departmental mission to support LGBTQIA+ and QTBIPOC students, staff and faculty. He partnered with Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, as a consultant to develop a culturally competent Safe Zone training program. His experience in higher education has also focused on other areas of student affairs, including orientation, financial aid and advising, and student transitions. He volunteers with the Trevor Project and the Human Rights Campaign.
In addition to his doctoral work, Oliveira holds a master’s degree in higher education administration from St. Cloud State University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.
“We are very excited to have Kris join the diversity and equity team,” said Precious Porras, assistant vice provost for diversity & equity and director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. “His education, experience and passion for serving students made him an ideal candidate to lead the center. We will open the new center in the spring semester and are excited to have Kris’ leadership as we enter a next phase for SGD.”